Service is a relationship between equals.
Serving, like healing, is mutual. I am as
served as the person I am serving.
We serve Life; not because it is broken
but because it is holy.
-Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen
In the many years that have expended themselves since my beloved Lindsay died, I have been enriched by much healing and growth as I sought out meaning in the many different avenues of opportunity that were presented to me in time. There were options and choices that suited my personality and lifestyle, while others were left untouched, perhaps only due to my readiness to open my heart into what was possible in my world.
I was fortunate to have found remarkable people like the late Elisabeth Kubler Ross and the late Gregg Furth, who were among those primarily responsible for the immense change in healing and insight into my life’s quest for meaning. I continue that wonderful journey even today.
I feel privileged when I am sought out by bereaved parents, as I appreciate how succinctly the role of the wounded healer delivers a measure of compassion and empathy that is not possible in circumstances other than what life’s teaching brings. I truly feel it a sacred privilege and consider it to be a walk on holy ground, when a devastated parent courageously dares to share their pain with me.
I remember so clearly, especially in later months; trying to find someone who would not judge me for crumbling into my grief at inopportune times. The pain was so much bigger than I was for such a long time; perhaps it is the reason for my endless patience and compassion in my therapy practise all these years later. All of these life’s lessons have made me a stronger and a better person. I am more aware and sensitive to my own becoming as time passes. I have become stronger in the broken places, to quote Ernest Hemingway; also a fellow bereaved parent.
Elisabeth used to say that men were particularly discriminated against when it came to grief. Although times are thankfully changing, there is still a belief that men are not really supposed to cry. Sometimes gently giving permission for that kind of expression can be done by opening one’s own heart as a wounded healer. Sometimes companionable silence can be a remarkable catalyst for this kind of healing.
Some time ago, an old friend shared some of his journey with me as a newly bereaved father. Like me, he often found solace in music in his life, and yet, to his surprise, he was not able to bring forth anything from that part of his creative ability to honour his child’s memory.
In an attempt to bring comfort to him and create an opportunity for introspection, I sent him the following thoughts...
Perhaps your thoughts are not as disorganized as you condemn them to be…you know when a door closes, a window is bound to open, even if only a tiny crack in the beginning; enough to let in a shard of Light that you never before entertained as a possibility…that with time and tender healing, grows into a blaze of glory in understanding and joy. In our humanness, that takes time.
I recall many years ago when I was trying to unsuccessfully tune my guitar with Shep, a musically talented bereaved father who worked with Elisabeth as a facilitator, and he and I were both playing for the workshop. I was so shattered at the time that I could not play or sing; and now not even tune my instrument.
In my typical introverted fashion, I disengaged from everyone and walked out into the desert, but Shep noticed and he followed me. I could not tell him why my world was getting smaller in goodness until I could not even hide in my music; always a place of sanctuary for my soul. Finally, I realized there was no song left in my heart; there was nothing but dust and ashes, as you stated.
I had to acknowledge the loss was that profound; he suggested. I wept as never before, with an awakening to the profound change my child’s dying had left in me.
Shep then reached over for my guitar and said he wished to share something with me as one who had also loved and lost. In the middle of this deserted place, he began to sing “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof. It tore my heart open, but I started to feel the music again.
He likened it to sustaining a severe gash; how we initially don’t feel it until the shock wears off…I had to let the pain out to let the love in.
“Is this the little girl I carried,” he sang. I made myself celebrate these words with love rather than regret. That first time, I could not get past the weeping.
By the end of the workshop two days later, Shep and I sang it with a harmony and beauty I have never equaled since; ironically with guitars that did not need tuning.
When I began singing with the women’s choir again, it was with a conscious opportunity for spiritual healing. I joined late, and their chosen song was “Tears in Heaven” written by Eric Clapton when his little boy died. I knew I was meant to be there…
“Heaven on the Inside” is the first song I wrote only a few years ago. My writing has been a non stop sanctuary for my soul’s sanity in the madness of life; a place where I can become whole again. A place to let the pain out and the love in, and gain spiritual understanding and evolution in the process…
I think there is an anthem for your beloved child that needs to be born in you, my friend. The love you have for her is so profound, and in its expression through words and song there is a single layer of healing that begins. With every expression of it, you heal another layer; in a way that makes you rise from the ashes like a phoenix; to be born again and again.
In your songs, she lives again, because although she has died, your relationship has not. Let your love together be the shard of Light through the cracked open window, so that what today is the sound of a single voice may tomorrow be like a choir of angels singing in a blaze of glory. Let it be a reflection of the Light she brings to your life even in death.
Remember this must be done in layers; we both know how indescribable our love is. Let your celebration of who she was, and who she was becoming be the guiding that she has not lived for naught. Give the world a gift to remember her remarkable spirit; whether in words or song, and let it heal you in the process.
When you say there is no anthem; no song of pathos or a song made of rags in you, it makes sense. Those are your feelings of losing her. From what you describe, she was a child of remarkable joy, talent, life, brains and spirit. Do you need to write a song about your feelings of loss or about how brightly she shone in the lives she touched? They are two very different spectrums at this point in time; too far distanced to pull together until you let some pain out so you can let some love in…
I hope you understand…Nothing seems adequate to describe the remarkable immensity of who she was in your life.
That’s why I’m still writing all these years later; still finding new things to say as I continue on my healing journey with Lindsay firmly ensconced in my bones and in my soul.